‘That f**king chopper is really pissing me off’

The chopper in question was ferrying loads between Eigergletscher and somewhere down towards the Arven/Honneg/Nordwand ski lift intersection. It was providing materials to be used in the process of maintaining and improving the mountain infrastructure. This is something we all use and rely on for easy access and egress from the many amazingly beautiful jumps, climbs and walks in the mountains around Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidegg and Lauterbrunnen.

Having watched the chopper for a few minutes making its short flights back and forth, a big-way group left the mushroom and flew toward and landed near Alpiglen.

I was amazed (read disgusted) by what followed; the wingsuiter who was so openly unhappy that a helicopter crew might be doing their job in their home area whilst he was on his base jump holiday, decided it would be the best course of action to fly a left hand line from the Mushroom towards Kleine Schiedegg.

Whether they chose to open early or did so because they had to, I’m not sure but the idea of flying a line perpendicular to that of an operating helicopter is, to me, nothing short of irresponsible and dangerous.

‘I’ll go in before I let him beat me’

Overheard at dinner whilst discussing a wingsuit race with another pilot.

Are you on holiday?’

‘I’m a BASE jumper’

‘Oh?’

‘That got your attention didn’t it!’

Heard (easily, it was said for the benefit of everyone) outside a quiet bar on the walk home one night recently.

These are just some of the displays of arrogance that I’ve heard from visiting BASE jumpers in the past few days. These are not isolated incidents, these are just examples of behaviours I have noticed more regularly in the last few months.

It has been a pretty terrible summer for BASE jumping leading to some people dubbing it the ‘wingsuit BASE killing season’.

I’m not a wingsuit pilot, but I do jump albeit not prolifically. I can’t help but feel that one of the major problems within the BASE world these days is the prevalence of the ego and people’s need to satiate/massage it and thus arrogance. It is not solely wingsuit fliers who are guilty of these behaviours. It is just a sad fact that the majority of BASE deaths have been wingsuit related over the past few months

If someone chooses to make an ill thought out decision, or reduce their margin for error to none, then I guess within an unregulated ‘sport’ that is their prerogative. Unfortunately this more often than not has consequences far beyond that decision, be it fatal or not.

In Switzerland, for example, we as BASE jumpers are tolerated. We share a tenuous relationship with locals and the authorities. This relationship was fostered long before I, and indeed many others, came on the scene. To maintain this relationship and improve it needs a conscious effort from everyone to set good examples, make sensible decisions, follow the few simple rules set out by the SBA and to realise that, to many, jumping isn’t perceived as cool. It is dangerous. I fear that we risk showcasing too much of the reckless arrogance that costs lives and has the potential to ruin a beautiful past time for some people.

Do we really need to jump when the exit is wet? Do we need to fly towards a helicopter flight path? Does everyone need to know that we are BASE jumpers? Do families in family resorts need to hear us shouting ‘fuck yeah’ in a children’s play area whilst packing our canopies? Are we so focused on flying at 100% of our abilities that we can’t afford to carry down the empty water bottle that we carried to the exit? Are we in such a rush that we can’t take the time to call Air Glacier and check that we have a clear airspace?

We are none of us above this, we have a social and moral responsibility to put egos to one side and do things properly.

We are a transient population (jumpers) for several reasons. Can we not make the effort to work to improve the relationship we have with locals, rescue crews, nature and the media to help improve the longevity of something which has the potential to bring an immense amount of joy to relatively few?

Check out the SBA Website (Swiss BASE Association) website for more info on Jumping in Lauterbrunnen and the surrounding areas SBA website. Though these thoughts don’t just apply to Switzerland.

Photo credit: Ben Gingold
Enjoying having the Mushroom to ourselves on a beautiful September morning.

Photo credit: Ben Gingold